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PESHAWAR: The transgender community in Pakistan is among the country’s most marginalised groups. They are often in the headlines, often due to acts of violence committed against them. But of late, trans activists have made great strides including becoming a newscaster, a doctor and a lead actor in an award winning film. Things are indeed changing but it takes only one act of wanton or targetted violence to reverse the gains and spread fear among the community.

Mahi Gul, a Peshawar-based transgender rights activist, spoke to Aaj News at length about her life and the challenges facing the transgender community, particularly in Peshawar.

Mahi, who is an International Relations graduate from the University of Karachi, moved to Peshawar to improve the lives of the transgenders.

“I feel at peace living with the members of my community,” she said.

“Life of a transgender living in Peshawar is not easy,” said Mahi Gul. “Around 80 transgenders have been killed at different places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (since 2015).”

There is a need to sensitize the families of the trans-people, she said.

“People need to understand that we weren’t born to be killed in the name of so-called ‘honour’,” says trans right activist Mahi.

“I take a stand for myself and the community wherever needed,” she said. “Otherwise, the source of income for them and myself is the same.”

In Pakistan, members of the transgender community have limited earning opportunities. Most are forced to seek charity on the roadside. They are also known to dance and sign at festive occasions. Members of the community are also known to take up sex work. It makes them vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections.

Talking about a school for transgenders, she said that if all other children have a right to education, so do the transgender children. The activist mentioned that a school for trans children has been set up in South Punjab. “If they can bring about such a change, so can Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

Even if fifty percent of the trans-community gets educated, it will be a great achievement, she continued. “At least they will get access to better job opportunities,” she added.

She also urged the government to come up with a plan for elder members of the community. “There should be some funding allocated by the government to build shelter homes for the old trans people, who are unable to work and their families do not support them.”